Tuesday, April 29, 2008

いちご大福 ♪ Strawberry Daifuku

It is Strawberry season here in SoCal! The strawberries are HUGE and ultra juicy right now! Every week we've been going through at least 3 baskets of them. いちご大福 or Strawberry Daifuku are delicious Japanese confections made of sticky mochi stuffed with sweet red bean paste and a fresh strawberry. A perfect sweet snack or dessert for strawberry season!
I've been craving these sticky balls of strawberry goodness for a while so I decided to take on the challenge of making these tonight. They turned out kind of lop sided and not too pretty... but I think it added character to my retarded little strawberry balls. Looks can be deceiving, cause they tasted so yummy!

ICHIGO DAIFUKU RECIPE

Ingredients:
120g 白玉粉 Glutenous Rice Flour
180cc Water
20g Sugar
12 whole strawberries
2 cups Red Bean Paste
2 tablespoons 片栗粉 Starch

Directions:
1. Wash the strawberries and cut off the stems.
2. Roll the strawberries in Red Bean paste. Make sure the strawberry is in the center and make golf sized balls.
3. Mix the glutenous rice flour and sugar in a medium bowl with water with your hands and make sure there are no clumps.
4. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and microwave for about 2 minutes.
2. With wet hands, knead the rice flour which should have a mochi like consistency now.
3. Coat hands with starch and roll the strawberry and red bean paste balls with a handful of the sticky rice flour mixture until you've created your perfect strawberry daifuku!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cataplana Clams

Tonight, we had Cataplana clams for dinner. Cataplana is the name of a special Portuguese type of Dutch Oven, popular on the Algarve coast.My mom & I were watching a TV special on Portuguese cooking a few years ago and saw people making beautiful seafood dishes with this wonderful copper cataplana pot. We couldn't find a cataplana anywhere in the states but mãe (mother in law who lives in Portugal) kindly gave this cataplana to my mom as a gift. A cataplana is traditionally made of copper and is shaped like two domed clam shells hinged at one end. You can seal the two sides using a clamp to close it, but it doesn't have much of a handle so you have to be careful not to burn yourself! It can be used in the oven or stove top, but we opted to make our clams on the stove today. We simmered the clams in the Cataplana with garlic cloves, some sake, and lemon. Didn't have to even add any salt and the dish turned out beautifully!

PORTUGUESE STYLE CATAPLANA CLAM RECIPE

Ingredients:
Clams
Garlic Cloves
White wine or sake
Fresh squeezed lemon, salt, pepper, Tabasco to taste

Directions:
1. Scrub the clams well and let them stand in the cold water about 1 hour.
2. Add the clams & white wine or sake to the Cataplana, and cook, covered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the shells have opened. Thicker shelled clams will take longer. Discard any clams that don't open.
3. Stir the pot well to distribute the clam juices.
4. Salt, pepper, Tabasco, or lemon can be added to taste.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mrs. O's Cooking Class

Every month I look forward to my cooking class with Mrs. O. Her recipes are simple, healthy, and completely natural. Basically, her motto is to use the best ingredients and to create dishes that bring out the natural flavors of fresh food.She taught us how to make four dishes today. This one was a spring cabbage salad with sausage and mustard dressing. I always use store bought salad dressing but she inspires me to make my own. It's quite easy and it tastes better to make your own than to use most commercial salad dressings.
This was a dish of steamed spring greens with butter and salt. Simple, I know. But Mrs. O really teaches us the beauty in simplicity among other valuable nuggets of information. Such as: Never use margarine (it's fake and bad for you), Keep your meat at room temperature before you cook with it, store your butter in the freezer, and when choosing cabbage pick the lightest one with air trapped between each leaf, etc...
Ohhhh, I got to re-learn how to make crepes today. My aunt who lives in Berneuil en Bray, France taught me how to make her authentic crepes a few years back... but sadly I lost the recipe so I was glad that we made crepes today. A little different than my aunt's recipe but just as fresh and delicious! These little crepes were stuffed with custard cream and strawberries. I'm defiantly going to be making these on my own this week.
Now, lemmie tell you... Mrs. O makes the best darn muffins EVER. She barely uses sugar and never adds butter, shortening or oil to her healthy muffins, but you would never know cause they taste soooo good! Today we made steamed cream cheese muffins topped with golden raisins. When you steam the muffins instead of baking them, they turn out absolutely moist and fluffy!
STEAMED CREAM CHEESE MUFFIN RECIPE
By: Mrs. O

*Makes 7-8 muffins

Ingredients:
60g Tapioca Flour
120g Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Wheat Germ
80g cream cheese (at room temperature)
130cc Milk
1 egg
40g sugar
2 teaspoons honey
Handful golden raisins

Directions:
1. Mix together the cream cheese (at room temperature), sugar, egg, and honey.
2. Next, mix in the tapioca flour, regular flour, and wheat germ.
3. Stir until there are no clumps in the mix and pour batter into foil muffin cups.
4. Place the muffin cups into individual aluminum or glass cups and top the muffins off with golden raisins.
5. Boil about 3/4 cups of water in a large pot. Once the water is hot, place all of the muffins inside the pot.
6. Put a lid on the pot and keep the heat on med for 12-15 minutes.
7. Set the muffins on a rack to cool and eat!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Simply Breakfast

This shot was inspired by Simply Breakfast, a great blog that I've been frequenting lately. It's full of wonderful breakfast photos. There's just something really comforting about breakfast to me. I know a lot of people skip breakfast but I cannot go a day without it. For our sunny Saturday morning breakfast we had organic plain yogurt with strawberries, dried blueberries, museli, and drizzled honey.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Zucchini Flowers

It's that time of week again! I went to the Farmers Market to pick up some fresh produce and saw these gorgeous zucchini flowers. I saw Giada De Laurentiis making fried zucchini flowers in Italy on the Food Network and made me really curious about trying it... so I couldn't resist picking up a few of these to experiment with.
So beautiful and delicate! I decided to make a more Japanese version of Fried zucchini flowers by using tempura batter and it turned out great! This dish is so pretty and would make a nice side course to any Italian style main dish. They were really fun to stuff too! It was like origami, folding over the brightly colored orange petals.

TEMPURA FRIED ZUCCHINI FLOWER RECIPE

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh ricotta, patted dry
8 zucchini flowers, cleaned and stems removed
1 cup Tempura Flour
Oil (for frying)
Garlic Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pesto Sauce

Directions:
1. Clean and wash the zucchini flowers and pick out the stamen trying not to break the flower.
2. Prepare the Tempura flour, mix in a bowl with water and set aside in the fridge.
3. Mix the ricotta cheese, garlic salt, and pepper in another bowl.
4. Carefully stuff each flower, folding over the petals to conceal the cheese.
5. Dredge the flowers though the tempura batter, allow any excess to drip off then fry swiftly in the oil.
6. Dry the oil off on paper towels after frying. Eat while still hot with pesto sauce or marinara sauce.
I served this as an appetizer along with Fuseli pasta in white clam sauce.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cheeky Dinner

For dinner tonight, I cooked up a traditional Japanese style dinner with Hamachi no Kama (Cheek meat of Yellowtail). Kama is the succulent cheek or collar meat of fish. It's the best part of the fish if you ask me! It's meaty, fatty and melts in your mouth. Hubby loves having Hamachi no kama for dinner. It's so meaty that he says "tastes like chicken!" Of course we also had white rice as well as miso soup with mountain potato and shitake mushrooms. Along with the main course we had silken tofu with grated ginger and green onions, daikon, mizuna, seaweed & baby fish salad, and an umeboshi (pickled plum).
This fish goes perfectly with beer! We always eat it with freshly grated daikon radish and ponzu sauce.

Yakisoba Lunch

This is another one of those super easy things to whip up that often appears on our lunch menu at home. For lunch today, I made a shrimp and ham Yakisoba. Yakisoba is like a Japanese version of Chow Mein flavored with ソースor a kind of Japanese Worcestershire sauce. Quick, easy, and tasty with plenty of veggies.

Day Trip to San Francisco

Yesterday, I had a quick & short business trip to San Francisco. I finished what I had to do in a few hours and ended up with a whole day to roam the city. The last time I was in San Francisco was in December, but I always love visiting this place. Even though it's only a short 1 hour flight from LA, it's very different from So Cal! San Francisco is so charming with their old buildings, trolleys, trendy shops & restaurants. I've also noticed that the people in San Francisco dress better than the majority of us in So Cal. The people going about the streets of San Fran were wearing fabulous coats, boots, & blouses while the Southern Californians (including myself) spend their whole day in torn up jeans, T-shirts, and flip flops. Not that I'm complaining...

I especially love the fact that you can pretty much get around anywhere without a car, so I spent the day on foot. It's a lot more colder than it is in SoCal but spring was in full bloom everywhere!I started off my self guided tour in Japantown. Walked down Filmore Street.... And ended up in the Civic Center in front of the City Hall.
Directly in front of the City Hall is the Asian Art Museum. I decided to go on docent guided tour of the Museum masterpieces. I have to say, that of all the museums that I've visited in the world, this one was probably my favorite. All of the artifacts on display were amazing!
The featured exhibit was "Drama and Desire" which displayed Japanese Paintings from the Floating World (1690–1850). Pretty amazing stuff.
I was especially impressed by this gilt bronze Buddha dated 338—the oldest known dated Chinese Buddha in the world! I've seen pictures of this guy in quite a few books so it was neat to see it in person. This museum was defiantly the highlight of my trip.The "Old Gold Mountain" exhibit was also very neat! It was created by a contemporary Chinese sculpture artist who wanted to recreate the landscape of San Francisco using mirrored utensils, steel pots, and pans. It was crazy looking.It would be nice if I had all that stuff to use in my kitchen...The rest of the day I just wandered the streets of San Fran taking the scenery in.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Eating San Francisco

With my free time, I headed over to Embarcadero. The Embarcadero is the eastern waterfront roadway of the Port of San Francisco and is right along the San Francisco Bay.
Lucky me! Today was the farmers market at the Ferry Plaza right on Embarcadero. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, and lots of free samples for me to try! The farmers market here is so much nicer than the one I go to in OC. A wide variety of nuts and produce as well as food vendors.
One of the vendors at the Farmer's Market Caught my eye. This tent was set up from the famous raw restaurant Alive! This restaurant won SF Weekly's best raw food Restaurant award in 2007. I've been quite curious about raw food for a while. I know raw food is all the rage with it's claims of health benefits so I decided to give this place a try. What better place to try gourmet raw food for the first time than here?
I got the raw veggie lasagna with walnut pesto sauce and spinach. You can't really see the lasagna cause its buried in spinach... I started eating this lasagna and realized that it tasted nothing like lasagna. Basically it tasted RAW. It tasted like raw carrots, spinach, and tomato. It tasted like rabbit food. So I'm not sold on this whole raw food fad... I ended up throwing half of it away in the compost bin.After my raw lunch I headed into the ferry building in search of something to take the taste of the "lasagna" out of my mouth.I stopped dead in my tracks when I came across the Miette Patisserie. Oh, the cute sign and adorable shop! The perfect looking cakes are beckoning me!I've been food blog browsing a lot lately and I can't stop staring at the amazing little macarons that the Tartlette makes! I've been craving macarons for weeks because of her blog! But sadly you don't come across them often in the OC. And then I discovered these little suckers at the Miette sitting in pretty little jars on the counter! I carefully chose the chocolate lavender macaron and hazelnut chocolate macaron. I sat outside on a bench staring out at the bay bridge, taking my first bite of the hazelnut chocolate macaron... The angels were singing as the crunchy, creamy, chewy, and moist cookie traveled down my throat and into my happy tummy. These macarons were pure heaven.

Miette Patisserie
Ferry Building Marketplace
Shop 10
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415)837-0300

Glow in the Dark Tour

We just got back from an amazing concert! We saw Kanye West at the Nokia theater in downtown LA. Lupe Fiasco, Rhianna, and N.E.R.D. also performed at the show. Kanye West's set was off the hook and hubby & I had a wonderful time! This concert totally lived up to its hype!
...even though we had mezzanine seats.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Strawberries & Condensed Milk

Honestly, almost nothing is more simple and delicious than strawberries drenched in condensed milk. Last winter, hubby and I went strawberry picking in the green houses in the countryside of Japan. They let you pick and eat all the strawberries you want for 30 minutes at a price of about $15 and they hand you a little container full of condensed milk. You can eat the whole green house full of strawberries but you can't get seconds on the condensed milk. Needless to say, we found ourselves running out of the condensed milk within the first 5 minutes...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Potatoes au Gratin with Carrots

This is a dish I learned to make in Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom last year. In class we made it with pureed red bell peppers, but since we had a bunch of fresh carrots I tried this recipe out with carrots yesterday. It turned out a cheesy color with a sweet kick from the carrots. Next time, I want to add some cod roe (tarako). Cheese, cod roe, and potatoes are a winning combination. Next time...
POTATOES AU GRATIN WITH PUREED CARROTS RECIPE

Ingredients:
2 Potatoes, peeled
2 cups cream (or half and half) reduced slightly
3 carrots peeled and pureed
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Garlic Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mandolin, slice the potatoes approx. 1/8" thick. Layer the potatoes in a casserole dish.
2. After the cream has been reduced, add pureed carrots, garlic salt, and pepper in the mixture.
3. Pour the cream over the potatoes until they are barely covered. Gently toss the potatoes, if necessary to ensure that they are coated in the cream.
4. Sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella cheese 10 min before done in the oven.
4. Bake the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 45 min.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sakae Sushi

After our lunch at Spoon House we stopped by Sakae Sushi, which is right next door. Hubby loves to pick up Futomaki sushi to take home as a snack. Now, this place is not very noticeable from the outside, you might pass by it without even noticing the place. It's a hole-in-the-wall type of a joint with no place to sit and eat inside... Just a counter to order at with a menu above it. They only have 6 different sushi choices (Nori-maki, Inari, Ebi, Saba, Tamago-maki, and California Roll) but their menu hasn't changed in over 40 years! Yep, that's right. This little hole-in-the-wall has been around for about 45 years and the owners have literally kept everything the same for decades.
I highly recommend their nori maki. A type of traditional futomaki that has an assortment of colorful ingredients including pickles, shitake mushrooms, and egg. Actually, it's so good that I never got around to trying the other things on the menu before. The sushi even comes in a cute little package for you to open up like a Christmas present!
Once I open up the package I get all excited by the colorful little rows of FAT sushi! The rice is cooked just right, and at 70 cents a piece and a flavor that hasn't changed in over 40 years, you just can't go wrong.
Sakae Sushi
1601 W Redondo Beach Blvd. #112
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 532-4550

Spoon House

Today, my hubby and I went out to lunch in Gardena at the Spoon House.
I've been going to the Spoon House for Japanese style spaghetti since I was a toddler. I loved watching the cooks at the counter and listening to the beeping sound the pasta boiler would make when the pasta was ready. (Too bad the boilers don't make that sound anymore.) The exterior of the restaurant is hard to miss with the bright blue door and entryway. I must admit that the food here has gone downhill over the years. The owners have changed and the cooks have changed but I still go back once in a while for the decent food and nostalgic feelings this place brings back for me.
The best thing they serve at this restaurant is their fresh baked french bread! The recipe has never changed and they got it down just right.
The shell is crispy and crunchy while the inside is heavenly fluffy. They give you a basket of free bread when you sit down. We would often eat here on weekends when I was younger and we would always buy a whole loaf to take home with us.
The $1 salad is a good size and has a great Japanese style dressing!For the main course we had Carbonara spaghetti. A cream based spaghetti with egg and bacon. Although it doesn't compare to most of the carbonara we've had in Japan or the best carbonara we ever had in Rome, the Spoon House's Carbonara hit the spot just fine. I also recommend the Japanese Style cod roe and squid spaghetti they have here.

Spoon House Bakery & Restaurant
1601 W Redondo Beach Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 538-0376

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